ORB helps RBS make employees part of the bigger picture

One of the UK’s top banks has called upon the services of a leading strategic branding agency to help engage employees and better service customers. Known for interactive visual thinking sessions, ORB was brought in by Andrew Harrison, Managing Director of RBS’ Midlands and East of England Corporate & Institutional Banking, to host their ‘Think Outside The Bank’ staff conference.

I met Andrew at a business event and got talking to him about ORB and how we do things differently to other branding agencies. He mentioned his upcoming employee conference and I was immediately intrigued by his desire to re-enagage his employees in the RBS strategy,” said Rob Bloxham, Managing Director at ORB.

When we met the management team at RBS to receive the initial brief we knew that this conference needed to be different, in order to achieve what they wanted. With this in mind, we challenged the location immediately and suggested an alternative to the hotel that they had already chosen. We made it clear that if they were to plan the same style conference in a typical venue and weren’t prepared to think differently about what the employees might want, then how could they expect them to do so?” Rob continues.

So RBS took the bold step of taking the event to The Buszy, a former central bus station in Milton Keynes now run by social enteprise Make a Difference, which inspires young people to make a difference to their lives and the lives of others by making a positive contribution to the community.

Harrison said: “We brought ORB in to engage people in a different way, so everyone’s opinion would be canvassed and shared. Deciding to hold it at The Buszy was a leap of faith but given that we were clear with ORB that we wanted to get our teams to think and behave differently, we knew that perhaps our ideas about the conference needed to reflect that.

With an objective to avoid “death by PowerPoint”, Harrison didn’t want to just tell his employees to think and act differently, he wanted to show them and this is where ORB’s expertise came in. On the day of the event, the team used a blend of illustrative and visual story telling techniques, including getting them to paint their own graffiti. The idea of the conference was to cut through convention and protocol to ensure RBS and its customers succeed moving forward.

ORB prides itself on using visual thinking to break down traditional barriers and get entire organisations lined up in the same direction; engaged to deliver.

“We told RBS staff to expect the conference to be quite different from any they had previously attended and that they would be challenged to try new things. It’s far easier to do something new or different if you can visualise it so we helped the teams capture mental pictures during the day, to urge them to do things differently as they went about their day-to-day job from here on. They were all given coloured pens and sketch books to ‘doodle’ their experiences and interactions during the day, the whole of which was captured by cameras for a live-edited film and by illustrators on giant canvases to hang in the bank’s offices around the region. Bankers could even try skateboarding or street dance during the day,” Bloxham comments.

Having gone through some challenging times in the past, RBS wanted to ensure that employees were brought up-to-speed with new strategies and knew the importance of them to not just the business but also each and every customer. The chief executive of an RBS client shared his insights on ‘what clients want and need from their bank’ and told his journey from being decidedly disengaged by his relationship with the bank only 18 months previously, and the positive response from RBS since being confronted with the stark news. Two charities were also brought in to explain how business-critical it was for RBS to work with the community. As Harrison put it:

“The bank’s heritage for almost 300 years has been about creating wealth, growth and success for the communities we operate in and serve. So we know we succeed only when our customers and communities succeed.”

The conference covered RBS’s philosophy, vision and values to become a really good bank by ‘thinking outside the bank’, serving customers, working together, doing the right thing and thinking long term. Harrison concluded:

“With ORB’s help, we did it in a way that fully engaged and involved everyone and the feedback we have had has been markedly more energised and upbeat about how everyone can play their part in improving our service to customers. This feels like a transformational watershed for RBS in the region and we are committed to maintaining the momentum and the creative, open-minded spirit of adventure to our customer and community relationships sparked by the event at The Buszy.”

The RBS ‘Think Outside The Bank’ conference marks another high profile and successful visual thinking session for ORB. The team was also recently invited to host a visual thinking workshop alongside international experts at Pedare 2013, the Centre for Pedagogic Arts-based Research, to show teachers how they might use visualisation as part of their day jobs to demonstrate an alternative way of learning and generating ideas.